January 23, 2016

6 Signs He or She Isn’t Marriage Material

Gary Thomas — 


Somebody could be beautiful, funny, a pleasure to be around, and even be active in their church but still not be good marriage material. A few relational “infections” can all but erase many good qualities.

Put it this way: a gregarious guy could be a lot of fun to have in the dugout of a baseball team, but if he can’t hit, throw, or catch a baseball he’d be a poor choice to join your team. In the same way, someone could be wonderful in the context of dating and still be sorely lacking when it comes to the “game time” issues of marriage.

I’ve seen the following six major character weaknesses become significant hurdles for marital intimacy and satisfaction and even take down some marriages. This isn’t, by any means, an exhaustive list. There are many more. But each one of these is significant enough that if the person you are dating displays several (or even one or two to a deep degree), they may not be emotionally or spiritually ready for marriage—regardless of how much fun it is to date them.

1.He or she is a “taker”

The sad reality is some people are givers and some people are takers. Givers don’t always mind being in a relationship with a taker because they like to give; it brings them joy. But there are times when the giver will need to receive. For instance the giver gets really sick or is laid off, even though he or she provided the bulk of the income or just goes through a discouraging time and suffers things she has never known before, like depression or anxiety.

In those instances, can your taker learn to give? In many cases, sadly, the answer is no. The taker freaks out, abandons the relationship, or just runs around in an emotional and relational panic wanting everyone to feel sorry for them, only adding to the giver’s problems rather than alleviating them.

If you marry a taker, you’re sitting on a relational time-bomb, because you’re making the bet that, as a giver, your fallen body and your fallen soul won’t ever get so fallen that you’ll someday need help, even for a season. You’ll have better odds trying to win the lottery.

It is not selfish to want to marry a giver. It is wise. It is being a good steward of your time and life. It is a gift to your future children (just think about it).

How do you know if you’re dating a taker? I have an entire section on that in my book The Sacred Search (pages 203-208).

2. He or she is lazy

Many particularly younger couples are often surprised at how difficult life can become. It’s a lot of hard work. Raising kids is exhausting. Taking care of a house, working, and being married will sometimes push you to the limit of your energy. Unless you have unlimited funds and can pay for your house to be cleaned, your kids to have a full-time nanny, and your spouse to stay home (if he or she wants to), you’ll run into serious problems if you marry a lazy person (and if you are a married person you won’t be able to afford any of that).

It might seem like a holiday when your boyfriend or girlfriend is all about play and always trying to take you away from work, but if they do that to an extreme and never demonstrate self-discipline and initiative that carefree spirit will grow very tiresome, very quickly.

3. He/she lives primarily in the virtual world instead of the real one

I’ve talked to couples where the wife spends too much time on Facebook or Instagram, or the wife is so invested in her blog about her marriage that she barely has time for her marriage.

I’ve also seen many occasions where the husband can barely restrain himself from getting into his video game seat for eight hour sessions. I’ll grant that a man or a woman without kids can enjoy a four or five hour round of golf on occasion and still be a rather responsible adult. But when someone is playing video games, or is online several hours a day every day, or eight hours at a time it has become an escape. Worse, the more we participate in an escape, the hands on computermore tempted we are to double down and do it even more. The real world loses interest and the virtual world becomes our passion.

If your guy plays a little too much gaming now (or has to play on Christmas and Thanksgiving or is inflexible to be with you at an event that’s important to you because he doesn’t want to let other gamers down), it’ll frustrate you even more when kids come along or household tasks get ignored. If your girlfriend regularly loses herself in ten-hour Netflix marathons of Gilmore Girls or Grey’s Anatomy, ask yourself a simple question: “If this is how she escapes from pressure while single, why wouldn’t she do the same after we are married?”

And if you’re thinking, “Hey, if she watches ten hours of Parks and Rec then I can do ten hours of gaming!” you’re accepting a very low level of intimacy in marriage.

4. They’re not kind

A study listed kindness as one of the top two qualities contributing to marital happiness, and I believe it. Kindness never gets old. Bodies may deteriorate, mental functioning may slow down, beauty may fade, but a kind person usually becomes kinder. Your happiness will increase if you marry a kind person.

If you choose a kind person, you’re going to be blessed by their kindness for the rest of your life, maybe even every day. Kind persons love being kind; it gives them joy to be kind. Does your girlfriend look for ways to encourage and bless others in their discouragement? Does your boyfriend go out of his way to make people feel better rather than worse in social situations? If there’s a need, is your significant other someone who is often the first to step up?

Why stress kindness when so many other issues could be mentioned? Kindness is one of those qualities most associated with happiness, and most people desire a happy marriage. If that’s you, choose someone who is kind and drop someone who is unkind.

5. They’re addicted to porn and not dealing with it

I wish this wasn’t true, but the devastation I’m seeing from it has to be stated: women, if you marry a man who is an out of control porn addict, he won’t be able to be a satisfactory lover in marriage for very long (if ever). He will lose interest in you. He will face ED issues decades before men normally do. He will fight the urge to use you in bed instead of bless you. He will be comparing you with women who are acting according to script, not real life.

Infatuation can temporarily “cure” men of porn use for about nine to twelve months. But once the marriage settles into routine, many men go right back to the easy sexual fix. High speed internet pornography will literally re-wire your man’s brain, affecting how he gets aroused and his ability to handle that arousal. Google it. Study it. Look it up. Don’t just take my word for it! The results will and should concern you.

Some of you will say, “Isn’t this true for women, too?” Yes, though it appears to affect their brains a bit differently. But as a man, you should be equally concerned.

Women, be wary of allowing a man to rush you into marriage in hopes that this will take his struggle away. Marry a healthy man who wants to have an intimate, mutually satisfying sexual relationship not a man who wants to use you to overcome a habit that he hasn’t been able to cure on his own. Marriage alone never cures pornography use.

Since porn use is now virtually universal among younger men, you’ll be hard pressed to find a man who has no history with this or even one who doesn’t still occasionally struggle. Just be wary of a man who has never found any freedom in this area for any significant period of time. There’s a huge difference between marrying a man who has some accountability in place, people he talks to, and long stretches of obedience, and yet still occasionally stumbles and someone who has never been able to live without porn for any appreciable length of time.

I have worked with some young men with good hearts and a sincere desire to follow God who have struggled with porn to various degrees—and yet I was able to recommend them to marriage with no hesitation. They may yet struggle, but they are fighting the battle instead of simply surrendering to the desire, and they are intent on living without it. They’ve demonstrated obedience and wise living and I believe they will be honorable husbands. I don’t want you men to think I don’t have any empathy for you—I do. And I admit that there is a difference between a guy whose brain is being shaped by this who in fact has no history apart from this, who settles into hours-long porn sessions as his brain is sadly re-wired away from real-life on a regular basis, and a man who earnestly struggles because of his past but is seeing far more victory than defeat.

Any defeat represents future vulnerability, however, women do need to be careful and wise—that’s simply the nature of addiction. Porn certainly isn’t the only sin, but left unchecked, it can be among the most destructive.

6. They’re not humble

Humility is sadly under-rated. The Christian classics call it “the queen of the virtues” for good reason. Humility is the foundation for virtually every other positive character quality. It’s what spawns kindness, service, generosity, and confession.

Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but less about yourself. If you marry an arrogant person, every time there’s a conflict he/she will expect you to change instead of examining their own heart to see what they need to change. That gets really old.

A proud person will choose to live where he/she wants to live. They will spend their holidays with whom they want to spend their holidays, and they will find ways to punish you if they don’t get their way. They will spend money as if their needs and wants are more important than anyone else’s. And you will feel as if you matter less and less as the years go by, instead of mattering more and more.

If you want a few tests for humility, I’ve got a few sections on this in The Sacred Search (see especially pages 127-128 and 134-136).

A lot of married readers who follow this blog still read the posts intended for singles, so other married readers, help me out: what important warning signs did I leave out? Do you agree with the ones I mention here?

Let’s start a conversation.

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49 responses to 6 Signs He or She Isn’t Marriage Material

  1. Goodness, reading these 6 points is really making me consider what kind of choices I have been making in the dating world. I have been blinded by attraction in the beginning only to realize her and I aren’t a fit. These 6 points are all very evident in why someone has not been a match for me. Need to start looking for some of the positive traits that you mentioned in people more so than physical traits.

  2. Heres some advice for a young man…find parents probably not in the west, who are raising their daughter to be a good wife and mother and to submit to her husband. Make sure her mother is submissive and respectful to her husband and make sure her father is loving but firm. Next, make sure that the daughter never had a boyfriend and was a virgin, Next make sure the daughter is kindhearted and is a giver and is not selfish or materialistic. Next, make sure she wants and loves children. Next, make sure the daughter is not a liar but keeps her word and is willing to be a faithful and obedient wife for life. Finally Most Important, make sure this girl has submitted her life to Christ, that she loves Christ, and that she has a fear of hell and fear of loss of salvation if she ever abandons you and commits unfaithfulness, this fear and love for Christs ways is healthy and will be the bedrock of a long-lasting successful marriage.

    • His Bride First January 18, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      Please remember to advise these young men that submissiveness is also a mutual thing between spouses as is written in Ephesians 5:21. In fact, please advise these young men to also read Ephesians 5:21-33. It is often emphasized for women to “submit” to their husband, but it not to emphasize the love, service, and sacrifice the husband is to give/ show to the wife. As a Christian woman who was submissive to her husband, I was abused. Only emphasizing wives submitting to their husband helps keep women in dangerously, abusive marriages. Abusive marriages are more rampant in the Christian community than many would like to believe. It was NEVER God’s intent to for the husband to demand submission from his wife, yet this has been perverted in the Christian community. Both spouses are first responsible to submit to God, then to one another. Submission comes from a place of love and respect; it is a gift to be given, never something demanded. Also, Darrell, can you point me to scripture that says a Christian, a Christ-believer, can lose salvation? I believe that “the bedrock of a long-lasting successful marriage” is each spouse constantly and individually surrendering and submitting to Christ. When we die to the selfishness of ourselves, He will strengthen us to love one another as He intended. I pray that you find healing from whatever pain in marriage you have experienced.

  3. This blog would really help me in the future. Personally, I would prioritize in avoiding having those qualities in the list on myself more than avoiding (in marriage) a woman with these qualities.

  4. Gary, what about their family of origin? Does that have any influence in being marryable or not?

  5. I’m pinning this! Every single person needs to read this. Unfortunately I got 2 out of 4 of these (at least) wrong. ?

  6. Somebody could be beautiful, funny, a pleasure to be around, and even be active in their church but still not be good marriage material.

    Boy, I learned this one the hard way. I met my ex in church. He was so on fire then. But things went downhill fast. By the time it was over, he was back on meth and alcohol, he forced me into bankrupcy and I still had to pay off on of the cars he dumped in a parking lot. I would have to drive around town to find him so I could get him home, showered, dressed, get his lunch made, and get him to work on time.

    He was sleeping around and I had to be tested for STDs because of him.

    He was neglectful and abusive of our son. He went on a ski trip without us once after he moved out (he said he was moving out of where we lived so he could find us a better place). He didn’t stop by to see if we needed anything. I had no job, no car, no money and was running out of food for our son. He dropped by at the end of the weekend because he was looking for some cds of his. He didn’t even get out of the car to see our son. I confronted him on leaving us without any money, he said “I thought your parents would pay for it”. He tossed me a $20 bill and took off. That was one of the last times I saw him outside of a courtroom.

    The mark he left has been long lasting. We never saw him again.

    Recently, his other two kids reached out to us on Facebook. His older son told my son that my son was the lucky one.

    I greatly appreciate articles like this. I have stayed single my sons entire childhood because I did not want to risk marrying another bad man again. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I look forward to finding a good man and having a great marriage in the future.

  7. Thankyou for writing this blog Pastor Gary. I am new to your blog and am very inspired. God bless your heart.

  8. Thank you, Pastor Gary.

  9. African Queen June 2, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    This is very helpful.it has reminded me of all my christian values and how i was compromising them for my boyfriend .this article is indeed a blessing…Thank you Jesus

  10. We will be married 50 years on May 28. Marriage is a journey. You don’t stop the journey because things get tough. Didn’t the vow say “for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health? There are all of those things in marriage. Thank you for your blog, your wisdom and willingness to share. I have learned many things from you.

  11. Gary, I am new to your blog but not new to you. My husband and I saw you speak at a marriage conference a few years back in Massachusetts and we bought Sacred Marriage. Unfortunately, I married a man who had all six of these signs, and unfortunately, after 15 years of marriage with a seven-year old son later, still does. I have dealt with emotional and verbal abuse and emotional withdrawal for my entire marriage. There has been lying and manipulation and there is no trust left. I asked him for separation six months ago following Leslie Vernick’s guidelines outlined in her Emotionally Distructive marriage book. After six months of separation with serious counsel, it is becoming clearer to me that my marriage my be coming to an end. I have no confidence in his ability to make any significant strides to overcome his porn addition and his emotional withdrawal since he has operated in this way for close to 35 years (since he was 12-13 years old) with no significant success. Thanks for letting me share.

  12. Thanks Mr. Thomas for such an insightful post

  13. I thought this was an excellent article. Those are all points I am being mindful of as a single as I meet men who could be a potential spouse. Yet it truly bothered me when you were making the point about the wife that spends so much time writing a blog about marriage that she neglects her own marriage. I do see the point you were making, but as a female blogger, it was offensive because it is lumping a blog in with a hobby.

    Many of my friends are part-time or full-time professional bloggers, with husbands and children that they homeschool. Yes, they need to be mindful of not neglecting their family over their work, yet any woman that works full or part time needs to keep that in check.

    If you had made a #7 about not spouses not investing in their marriages in order to work more than needed, I feel that that would have been a more appropriate place to mention the point. You could just as easily say that a husband is a family, marriage counselor who’s marriage needs help.

    I understand that there are hobby bloggers out there. Yet a wife’s blog may be an actual job and not a hobby equal to facebook or video games.

    On the flip side thank you for the reminder not to get too caught up in social media, it’s true, it is easy to send far too many hours online if we do not give ourselves boundaries.

  14. Kristy McTaggart January 31, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Some of these replies are as insightful as the article!
    I was married for 18 years to a man with several of these problems, and the danger of being in an intimate relationship with these qualities is very real. Because i believed God would not permit me to divorce, i ended up checking myself in to a mental health facility. It took that drastic of a step for me to get perspective.
    Psalm 23 is very true: He restoreth my soul. But it took a long time, and my children suffered.

  15. Thanks Mr. Thomas for such an insightful post. I might add “Teachability”. Does he/she have a teachable heart? Because God can do anything with a teachable heart. 🙂

  16. Hi Gary,
    Thanks for the wonderful post. I met a guy online few years ago and soon we started our long distance relationship. He’s a nice Christian, humble, sincere, and friendly. But he’s very passive and sensive. He easily thought others dislike him, he didn’t believe he gets enough respect from others, and he easily got hurt by my words, some of which were just my jokes. He didn’t drive and he’s his parents big baby, although he’s at his late thirties. We finally broke up because he thought I hate him, which was just a lie from Satan.

    I wonder if Gary or whoever else can provide some advice on the long distance love. Thanks!

    • With Skype and modern technology, I think “long distance love” is more easily pursued today than ever before. It’s certainly wise to live in the same community for a period of time before marriage, but it’s certainly possible to start a relationship or maintain it while living some distance apart. The issues you describe, however, have nothing to do with long distance but everything to do with maturity and character.

  17. Another “redflag” to be very cautious around is (as with your approach to gaming and pornography) any area where the ‘thing’ seems to have control of the person, rather than the person having the self-control. At what point does a substance or activity become unhealthy or addictive? Re: alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, prescription pain-killers, sports fan…the list goes on. Another angle on this is, “Are their any idols present in the persons life?” For example, careers and hobbies. Love God. Love people. Keep it simple.

  18. Hi, thanks for your very useful article. I would like to add “mental illness” to your list. I have seen a few marriages go sour very quickly (within months) because of mental illness. Thankfully a lot of mental illness is difficult to hide for more than about 6 – 8 months, so a longer courtship can probably help, 1 – 2 years. And since love is blind, it can help to be reminded to take careful note of any behavior that seems odd.

    My brother had a short dating/engagement period but ended up with a wife that panicked at everything, screamed in anger, slept with the light on, spent exhorbitant amounts of money, started a new business every six months, moved once per year, and eventually divorced him. None of our family saw any of the problems until the night before the wedding. Later, my brother realized that all her behavior perfectly matched a form of insanity.

    • Well that’s not entirely fair.

      You should say untreated mental illness. Or someone who is clearly ill and absolutely refuses to deal with it. I’ve struggled with mental illness for almost half my adult life. I’m having a relapse right now. I never hid that from my husband. But I try to deal with it as best I can, and he’s very supportive.

      So like the porn thing, there is a vast difference between someone who fights the illness and someone who just gives in/ refuses to deal with it or even admit it.